School offers to help raise service standards

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014


WHILE Cebu has managed to gather its own stakeholders to come up with tourism initiatives, the tourism chairman of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry noted the lack of international standards among hotel accommodations.

Samie Lim, who is also president of the Canadian Tourism and Hospitality Institute and past chairman of the World Franchise Council, hopes to make improvements in the standards of top tourism destinations in the Philippines by getting locals to open up a franchise of his hospitality school.

Lim said it took him awhile to find a school with training programs that he found suitable and that he found it in the Canadian Tourism College. He decided to open up a franchise in the Philippines and aims to see more branches open up in areas like Cebu, Bohol, Baguio, Boracay and Palawan.

Lim praised Cebu for its efforts, as it has established itself as a top destination in the country. “I think Cebu is the most tourist friendly. Manila is only a gateway but not a tourist destination,” he told reporters.

Flights

He credited Cebu's private sector for aggressively asking more airlines to offer direct flights, organizing trade missions that led to direct flights to Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia. He said tourists do not want to keep on transferring to other planes to get to their destination and having direct flights attracts them more.

He also believes Cebu has the right access, with most attractions within 45 minutes from the city center.

While big names in hospitality have put up facilities in Cebu, he noted that not all accommodation facilities follow the best standards. He admitted that not all travelers seek five-star service, but he said those who book rooms expect a certain level of service.

Lim said most small hotel owners think that it is enough that they have good infrastructure and beautifully-designed rooms. What hotels need, he said, are upgraded service standards.

He said most owners think their competition is the hotel beside them and gauge their facilities with those within proximity of their hotel. "That is not your competition.

Your competition is Indonesia, Singapore or Vietnam," he said.

Rating

As the Department of Tourism implements its accreditation within the year, Lim warned hospitality facilities to upgrade their service standards before getting accredited “or else you will be stuck with that rating for two years.”

Lim said the Filipinos' warm nature and understanding of the English language are not enough. Local establishments may also lose their best people to better jobs elsewhere, which is why he hopes setting up a school to train people with the right hospitality skills is necessary.

He noted that the point of promoting tourism is to be able to provide more jobs to the locals. He said the best jobs are not coming to the small destinations if the establishments are hiring outside of the locality. He also lamented that architects, contractors and hotel managers are not from the vicinity of the establishment.

He also said that even some universities offering hotel and restaurant management courses are not able to impart the right skills, as they are not qualified to hold top positions.

Lim has big dreams for the local hospitality industry, saying he hopes the franchise could spread throughout Southeast Asia and that he can grow the franchise to 100 schools in the region in 10 years.

With the language and attitude, Lim is confident Filipinos will excel when trained and could replace the Swiss as the best hoteliers.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 19, 2014.

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